The social media threat to service personnel


There’s no escaping that social media has been playing an increasing part in our everyday lives for the last decade and it is this fact that now have military chiefs worried about what information is being shared online by those under their command. This fear has been reinforced as reports have begun to circulate about fake profiles being created in order to follow the activities and locations of serving personnel and even members of youth cadet organisations.

The MailOnline has published reports from members of the British Army’s University Officers’ Training Corps that shows a worrying increase in the number of fake profiles being created and aimed at befriending members online. Security experts are concerned that with last year’s attempted abduction of an RAF NCO as he jogged near his base, members of Jihadist groups operating in the UK are trying to use social media to plot similar kidnappings or attacks.

Other sources claim that Russia is attempting to carry out covert reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations on British forces via social media or even use it to recruit or coerce service personnel. It is also likely that news and other media outlets are following service personnel online hoping to uncover a story.

The MoD has been aware of the potential impact social media could have on security for quite some time and in 2012 published a booklet that provided a guide on what was acceptable or not. This included asking the following questions about anything put online;

• What if this ends up on the front page of the papers?
• Would I say this to my CO in front of 100 people?
• Would I leave this information lying on a park bench?
• What if a terrorist or criminal gets this information?

British forces aren’t the only ones who have had to learn this lesson with most of the world’s military and government organisations having to regulate their personnel’s use of social media. In July 2014, a Russian soldier named Sergeant Alexander Sotkin posted a photo of himself online with the image being tagged as having been taken in eastern Ukraine despite Russia repeatedly denying it had Russian soldiers fighting alongside pro-Russian rebels there.

Cyberspace represents many challenges when it comes to security. Firstly, unlike secret military equipment it is readily available to anyone and exists well outside the chain of command. Keeping government secrets has always been a part of military life but instead of shady, backroom dealings with mysterious strangers in trench coats the people trying to gather information online will often seem like anyone else with similar interests, personalities and no obvious indications that they are someone whose goal is more nefarious than simply sharing a funny cat video.


On Twitter? Why not follow me?

Tony Twit

Hi everybody.

Do you live in the world of tweets,retweets and hashtags? If so why not look me up on Twitter. Yes today I surrendered to the inevitable and set up a Twitter account. I plan to use this primarily for Defence of the Realm so expect a lot of military themed tweets and what-not. Basically, this is where I am going to be putting forward my musings for future posts or just things in general.

Hope to see some of you on there. You can find me by clicking here.

Also don’t forget the Facebook page is still alive and well. You can find that here.

Hope you are all well.

– Tony

NEWS: Britain’s Online Warriors

ts_sgs_operator_325x244The 77th Brigade is Britain’s answer to the threat posed by online terrorists. Composed of as many as 1,500 full and part time personnel the Brigade’s function is to provide an alternative means to combating terrorism and extremism across the globe without having to put soldiers on the ground or drones in the air.

The Brigade is comprised of experts in the fields of psychological operations, media information operations and the stabilisation support group. The Brigade will utilize the online world including social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to inhibit the influence of extremist factions on impressionable people.

The Brigade can then retaliate against extremists in a “soft” way which involves coercing the likely targets for recruitment to a more neutral or even anti-extremist stance. A “hard” response could then be actually taking down the site/page that they discover is spreading extremist propaganda. There is also a reconnaissance element to the force by using the online services the extremists use to monitor the passing of information in order to build up a more complete picture of extremist operations.

In-effect the hearts-and-minds war is now digital.

Speaking at Chatham House on Monday, General Sir Nicholas Carter said;

“Maneuver is now multidimensional. It started being two-dimensional with fire and movement. We introduced a third dimension with air and artillery. We moved through maneuver in the electromagnetic spectrum and we now find ourselves in an era of information maneuver.”